With Tekken 7 coming to a console near you soon, you can be sure the fighting-game giant is about to get an even bigger roster than ever before. From the swaths of fighting styles of which we’ve become accustomed, to the characters we haven’t seen for a long time, Tekken is promising something truly amazing in fighting games.
But how did it all begin?
Released in the arcades in 1994 and brought to the PlayStation 1 in 1995, Tekken was going to become a fighting game phenomenon. Contending with SEGA’s Virtua Fighter at the time, the reception to the introduction of Tekken was exceptional. It might not been as visually pleasing as Virtua Fighter, but get this: Tekken was a Guinness World Record holder. It was the first PlayStation game to sell over one million units. It was the first fighting game to feature fully simulated 3D, which is now the norm in most games.
However, the fighting genre is still wildly stuck on 2D, cartoony violence in a limited space, with only a few variables. It means you can get your character to make someone go backwards, or make someone move towards you. You can jump over your foe to attack them from behind, or use a move that turns the enemies around. 3D rarely works, but in Tekken, it does so, beautifully. Just double-tap the up or down button and you’ll slide around the foe in a strafe-like manner.
Considered well-balanced and innovative, the Namco team behind Tekken knew they had a winner and produced Tekken 2. In August 1995, the arcades were filled with a brand new upright cabinet for Tekken 2, once again lauded with critical acclaim. A huge commercial success following the original game and with so many new characters and styles, an obvious cult following arose for the franchise. Once more, people announced that Tekken 2 was one of the best games of all time (2006, Guinness World Records).
With so much success and innovation, it was obvious that Namco had to keep this one up. Street Fighter might have really made the Fighter genre a success, but Tekken built on it in an innovative way. Whilst Street Fighter favoured more aggressive, offensive tactics with well-placed timing, Tekken relied on the defensive and meticulous player. The two titans of the genre really knew how their specific audiences worked. Although both had their different play styles, neither game felt samey.
Tekken 3 released in arcades in 1997 and on the PlayStation 1 in 1998. This was the last time a Tekken title would feature on the console and it was its 4th most successful game, beaten only by Gran Turismo II, Final Fantasy VII and Gran Turismo (original).
Selling 8.3 million units can’t be a fluke, and it’s the 18th most popular game of all time, even by today’s standards* on GameRankings. From releasing a massive roster for its time, to introducing new mini-games in the title, Tekken Force and Tekken Ball, this was another innovative piece of fighting game history.
Remember I mentioned this game sold 8.3 million units? Only one other fighting game has beaten it in terms of sales. Can you guess which that game was? I’ll tell you at the bottom of the article.**
Moving on from Tekken 3, it’s time to start focusing on the next generation. PlayStation 1 was nearing the end of its life, as evidenced by Final Fantasy in 2000 with their last PlayStation 1 release. Tekken 4 was released in arcades in 2001 and then on the PlayStation 2 in 2002.
As well as being more narrative focused than any previous Tekken title, a series unique spin on being able to move before the announcer lets you fight was introduced. This has remained ever since and is critical to the most tactical of players.
Widely considered a solid fighting game, Tekken 4 received relatively “meh” reception. I mean, it did well don’t get me wrong, but compared to its predecessor, it felt a little bit stale. Sure, it was nice they were trying new things, but it felt as if the King of Fighting Games could be losing its crown any time soon.
When Tekken 5 came out to arcades in 2004 and the PlayStation 2 in 2005, it looked as if the King of Iron Fist Tournament was back to being a strong title. Tekken 5 went back to its roots somewhat; dropping some of the more experimental features of the game in favour of having a clean, solid experience for its fanbase. It was faster, it was much more like its predecessors and yes, they kept adding to the already extensive roster, bringing out 32 characters, along with character customisation for the first time.
Now we’re leaping to the current iteration of Tekken. Tekken 6 released in 2007 for arcades and PlayStation 3 in 2009. This is the last main Tekken title we received, and it was incredibly advanced. Bigger and better was really the mantra for Tekken 6, releasing 42 playable characters to choose from, all with their own special styles and skills. Couple this with a rather well put-together online system and you had a game that kept people entertained for years.
Tekken 6 received favourable reviews all around and it was also the first title in the series to be released on multiple platforms.
In 2015, Tekken 7 released to the arcades and we’re expecting it to come out in Q1 or Q2 of 2017 on consoles and on the PC for the first time. I’ve got myself a brand new PC on the way, which I can’t wait to get my hands on. All I need now is a proper fighting game pad, the pre-release to pay for and some days off to enjoy the fighting phenom that is Tekken.
But what do you think? Will Tekken be worth the wait, or do you think fighting games are far too niche in today’s audience? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter.
Keep fighting, folks!
* Correct at the time of writing.
** At the time of writing, the only game to have beaten Tekken 3 in sales is Super Smash Bros Brawl. That’s an insane thing to think, that Tekken 3 was the de facto leader in fighting games up until 2008. These figures are taken from an article in 2014.